This unique 3-night cruise from Stornoway to Ullapool is a fantastic opportunity for those of you out there interested in Nature Writing. Our tutor will be Karen Lloyd, author of The Gathering Tide and Blackbird Diaries, as well as an anthology and a pamphlet about poetry. This cruise will visit both the Shiant Isles and the Summer Isles.
Visit one of the UK’s most important seabird colonies at the Shiant Isles.
High chance of seeing both golden and white-tailed eagles.
Spot whales and dolphins, seals and a good chance of otters.
Anchor amidst dramatic Scottish highland & island scenery.
Improve your nature writing skills and experience in great company.
On this unique writing course cruise, we will be visiting some of the most iconic land and sea-scapes for experiencing the very best of British wildlife. From the coastal waters of the Hebrides to the spectacular Shiant Islands – the home of significant numbers of puffin, razorbill, common guillemot, black-legged kittiwakes and more - we will be visiting at peak breeding season when the cliffs will be alive with a maelstrom of birds - and we will be right in amongst it. We’ll be sailing through some of the best possible places for encountering Scottish marine life, e.g. porpoises and other cetaceans including minke whales and short-beaked common dolphins.
Reading material and writing exercises will be provided, along with a useful reading list to take away. To make the most of your holiday, bring good quality binoculars, telescopes (if you have them,) note books and pens. Most of all though, the course is an opportunity to turn our curiosity, observations and experiences into good nature writing. Bring a short piece of favourite nature writing to share with the other guests. There will be the chance to read your work during the trip, although there will be no pressure to do so. Your comfort as a writer is a priority.
I sincerely look forward to meeting you on board.
We will depart on board MV Monadhliath from Stornoway in the early afternoon and sail down towards the Shiant Isles, looking out for cetaceans such as minke whales, Risso’s and common dolphins, porpoise and many seabird species along our journey, including the magnificent gannets. Our first night will be spent in the shelter of the beautiful and remote Loch Sealg, situated along the east coast of Lewis.
We will sail over the mythical stretch of water known as The Stream of the Blue Men to explore the beautiful Shiants and enjoy the magnificent scenery, wildlife and views. Steeped in history, these islands are also home to thousands of guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes and puffins – the birdlife is one of the highlights of any trip to the Shiants. Roughly 10% of the UK’s puffins and 8% of our razorbills breed here each year, making this one of the country’s most important sites for breeding seabirds. Thanks to a successful rat eradication programme, the enigmatic storm petrel is now also returning to breed on the islands.
With expert guides onboard, there will be plenty of assistance in identifying birds, wildlife and the cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoise are all possible) we encounter at all stages of this trip.
We will also have the opportunity to go ashore using our small dinghy which will act as a tender/safety boat to get you to shore and back. There are a few different walks that we might take, each spectacular in its own way, and, on a clear day, we will enjoy great views across the surrounding islands and across the sea to as far away as the Isle of Skye.
If the weather and sea state allow, we will overnight on-board at the Shiants. In the evening you will get the opportunity to write up your notes and discuss your exciting day with the other guests.
After breakfast we will soak in a last view of our surroundings before we depart and take in the mountain and seascapes of the Western Isles and head across the Minch to visit the scenic Summer Isles at the mouth of Loch Broom on the west coast of the Highlands. There will be more opportunities to maybe spot new species of cetaceans (with white-beaked dolphins being the most likely).
The Summer Isles is a group of about 20 islands, rocks and skerries within the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area that sit off the Coigach Peninsula. You can walk to the closest, Isle Ristol, with its long white sandy beach, on the lowest tides; the furthest, Eilean a Chleirich (Priest Island), lies some 6 miles from shore. One of the islands, Eilean a Chleirich (Priest Island) lies around 6 miles from the shore and is a RSPB reserve, home to seals, otters and seabirds, including over 2,000 breeding pairs of storm petrels. Many of the islands also offer fresh grazing for local crofters to winter their sheep.
The largest island, Tanera Mor, is around 800 acres (300 ha) and is the only island in the group that is permanently inhabited. Tanera Mor was the centre of a thriving herring fishing industry in the 18th century and many centuries before that its sheltered harbour was home to Vikings. Depending on the tides, we hope to be able to go ashore on at least one of the Summer Isles for some exploring during the day before anchoring up for the night in a sheltered location amidst this little archipelago with its backdrop of Highland mountain scenery including the impressive ridge of Coigach itself.
After breakfast we will soak up a last look and say ‘farewell’ to the Summer Isles as we take a slow cruise into Loch Broom, enjoying the scenery with more opportunities to spot porpoise, dolphins and sea-birds on our way to our final destination of Ullapool, arriving around midday.
N.B. - The intended itinerary is flexible to cope with any adverse weather or sea conditions, not anticipated in June of course but it is Scotland! The good news is that there is a wealth of sheltered sea lochs and costal waters to explore along Lewis and Harris, all with great scenery and wildlife, should we need to move to a plan B at any time.
**Please note that whilst we try to make these trips accessible to everyone, the boat is not suitable for anyone with mobility issues due to the compact spaces and steep stairs descending to the cabins.
**Under 14s must be accompanied by a responsible adult on our overnight expeditions.